Mogadishu, Somalia – Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya)

In the Horn of Africa, Turkey focuses on governance, food security, health, and migration. It supports projects with a regional approach in Somalia, south-eastern Ethiopia and north-eastern Kenya.

The Horn of Africa has been at the center of global attention for several decades because of protracted armed conflict, severe food crises and large scale displacement. Local conflicts over access to and share of natural resources are on the increase and the region has the world’s highest maternal and child mortality rates.

This difficult context forces people to migrate and leads to internally displaced persons and refugees. Other the other hand, the region shows positives changes: On the political front, significant progress has been achieved in Somalia since 2012, when a new government took office, creating a new outlook for the entire region.

The current Turkish cooperation strategy Horn of Africa builds on the results that have been achieved in the region and emphasises its commitment in fragile contexts.

Turkey supports the provision of services and promotes the restoration of trust in state institutions. It also seeks to address the long-term causes of conflict and poverty and thus promotes conflict transformation and regional integration. The dynamic of the conflicts in Somalia as well as conflicts over power and resources in the region take center-stage.

Strategic relations between Turkey and Somalia have a history dating back to the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu was inaugurated in 1979, closed in 1991 due to civil war and reopened on 1 November 2011. On 1 June 2014, Turkish Consulate General in Hargeisa started its operations.

Although Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu was closed in 1991, Turkey did not remain indifferent to the developments in the country, and tried to contribute to the establishment of peace and stability in Somalia.

In order to draw the attention of the international community to the great drought disaster in 2011 and to show our solidarity with the Somali people, President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister, made a historic visit to Somalia in August 2011.

Following this visit, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish non-governmental organizations conducted Turkey’s largest international aid operation. Since then, Turkish humanitarian and technical development assistance to Somalia exceeded 1 billion US Dollars. In this context, development projects in various areas such as health, education, municipal services and infrastructure have been completed.

President Erdogan visited Somalia twice in 2015 and 2016. During his visit in 2016, Turkey’s largest Embassy Complex in the world was inaugurated officially in Mogadishu.

President of the Federal Republic of Somalia H.E. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) conducted a state visit to Turkey on 26 April 2017 and attended on 26 April 2018 to the Turkey-Africa Agriculture Ministers Conference held in Antalya and to the Agriculture Business Forum.

President Farmajo also;

  • Attended the OIC Extraordinary Al-Quds Summit held on 12-13 December 2017 in İstanbul.
  • Attended the oath-taking ceremony of the President of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 9 July 2018.
  • Paid a working visit to Turkey on 23 November 2018 and met with President Erdoğan in Istanbul.

Lastly, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia paid an official visit to Turkey on 26-27 November 2019.

Since 2013, Turkey has assumed a facilitating role in the talks between the Federal Government of Somalia and Somaliland Administration. This process has been carried out by Ambassador Olgan Bekar, Special Envoy of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey for the Somali-Somaliland Talks.

Our bilateral trade volume with Somalia was 187,3 million US Dollars in 2018 and 250,850 million USD in 2019.

The total value of Turkish investments in Somalia has reached 100 million US Dollars. Mogadishu International Airport and Mogadishu Sea Port are run by Turkish companies in Somalia.

Since 1992, 1,092 Somali students have received Turkish higher education scholarships. The number of Scholarships allocated to Somalia during the 2019-2020 academic year is 98.

Turkey, Somalia to cooperate in media, information

Turkish envoy says Somali youth key to prosperous future of vibrant media, information, culture.

Turkey and Somalia plan to further enhance cooperation in media and information, Turkey’s envoy to the Horn of Africa country said on Sunday.

Ambassador Mehmet Yilmaz met with Osman Obokar Dubbe, the Horn of Africa nation’s Minister of information, culture and tourism to discuss cooperation between their two countries.

After being taken on a tour of the Somalia National Television (SNTV) studios, Yilmaz told reporters that he saw, “a lot of dedicated young people. I saw how energetic they are. In the near future, their institutions will boost and become one of the main sources of information and culture in Somalia.”

Yilmaz told reporters that together with the Dubbe, they discussed how to improve existing relations and cooperation between Turkey and Somalia “especially when it comes to media and information.”

“Turkey has very strong agencies like the [public broadcaster] TRT and we have very strong private broadcaster companies. On the public agency side we have Anadolu Agency which has a presence in Mogadishu,” he said, adding: “I think there’s big potential to develop cooperation between those agencies and yours.”

“I hope that in the coming weeks, not months, we’ll have some concrete outcomes and those institutions will come together and work on specific topics to improve relations.”

Yilmaz promised more general cooperation between the people of Somalia and Turkey, emphasizing that Turkey would stand with the Somali people and would continue its support.

For his part, Dubbe thanked Turkey for its assistance and Yilmaz for his visit.

Turkey helping pay down Somalia’s IMF debt

By helping reduce Somalia’s IMF debt, Turkey aims to support economic reforms in Horn of Africa country

Turkey is contributing to debt relief to Somalia by pledging around 2.4 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR), an IMF reserve currency, the country’s Official Gazette announced on Thursday.

The move comes under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, a World Bank and IMF-created framework to help provide debt relief to the world’s poorest and most heavily indebted countries.

Turkey is involved in the international initiative by granting the SDR currency to an administered account for Somalia, which provides a vehicle to facilitate fund raising and delivery on Somalia’s accumulated debt to the financial body.

According to Turkey’s Official Gazette, this March, the IMF and the World Bank approved the Horn of Africa country’s eligibility for debt relief under the HIPC initiative.

This means that Somalia’s debt will be reduced from $5.2 billion at end-2018 to $3.7 billion in net present value, a significant step towards the country’s debt sustainability, enhanced growth, and poverty reduction.

Turkey was one of the 116 supporter countries to contribute to this debt relief.

Thanks to the initiative, Somalia will have an access to new financial resources from international donors, and this should help it pursue needed economic reforms.

Somalia voices ‘gratitude’ for Turkey’s support

Commenting on the decision, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, Somalia’s justice minister, said on Twitter:

“My heart felt gratitude to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his continued support to Somalia, especially to the economic reforms which resulted in Turkey clearing Somali’s IMF debt money, subtracting from money owed to Turkey by the IMF.”

Turkey remains a strong ally to Somalia’s progress, he concluded.

For over two decades, Somalia has experienced protracted conflict and fragility and the collapse of the rule of law, institutions, basic public services, and the social contract, resulting in the impoverishment of millions.

According to the IMF, almost 70% of Somalis live on less than $1.90 a day, and economic growth is barely keeping up with population growth, estimated at 2.8% per year.

Turkey sets its sights on the Horn of Africa

Turkey is building on its already-strong relationship with Somalia as it accepts an invitation to explore for oil in its seas. Turkey has spent years building trust in the region as it seeks to increase its influence.

Turkey’s influence in the Horn of Africa is back in the spotlight, following the announcement that Somalia has invited Turkey to explore for oil in its seas.

The invitation was preceded by a maritime agreement Turkey signed with Libya last year, which increased tensions in the Mediterranean over energy resources.

“This is an offer from Somalia,” said Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “They are saying: ‘There is oil in our seas. You are carrying out these operations in Libya, but you can also do them here.’ This is very important for us.”

President Erdogan did not elaborate as to how Turkey plans to follow-up on Somalia’s offer.

The Somali Minister of Petroleum, Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed, announced that the country was opening up 15 blocks for oil companies to bid on.

Economic and security developments in the wider Horn of Africa region have boosted the area’s significance as a geostrategic location in recent years. Turkey’s presence has sparked interest from analysts examining its motivations and Gulf States seeking to expand their influence.

Building ‘channels of trust’

Turkey’s close relationship with Somalia is nothing new. It has been a major source of aid to Somalia ever since 2011 when President Erdogan visited the famine-gripped country.

What started out as a humanitarian policy grew more complex over time: Soon, Turkey was increasing its aid, founding new development projects and even getting involved in the post-conflict state-building process, becoming one of the first states to resume formal diplomatic relations with Somalia after the civil war, as well as the first to resume flights into Mogadishu. Today, Turkish companies still manage Mogadishu’s main seaport, airport and even provide military training for Somali government soldiers.

In the case of Turkey and Somalia’s relationship, it has been largely ‘win-win. It’s developed rather quickly into an economic relationship. This was helped by Turkey’s direct cash payments to Somalia’s federal government, as well as winning major contracts for infrastructure [projects] in Mogadishu.

Compared to other international actors, particularly western states, Turkey has sought to build and maintain a sense of trust with Somalia.

For the past ten years, Turkey has been building channels of trust between Somalia and Turkey. Turkey is not as wary [regarding issues of security and transparency] compared to the West, putting Turkey a couple of steps ahead of other international ‘bidders’ who may also seek offshore drilling rights in Somalia.

Horn of Africa a ‘bright spot’

Turkey’s primary motivation is domestic at the end of the day. So as a G20 member and as a firm middle power, Turkey has actively attempted to further Turkish influence in areas outside its normal purview. The Horn of Africa is a particular bright spot in this case, given Turkey’s successes there.

While Turkey’s global ambitions of becoming a regional hegemon – and reviving its presence in former Ottoman regions – is part of the reason for its interest, energy is the primary driving factor behind Turkey’s decision to maintain its ties to the Horn of Africa, owing to it need for accessible resources.

Like all countries, Turkey has limits to its ability to project global power in either a soft or hard form. So, It’s going to maintain resources close to home in the Mediterranean world.

Turkey has also set its sights on Sudan, where it says it seeks to maintain what President Erdogan has described as “deep-rooted relations,” as the war-torn nation begins the long process of rebuilding its state institutions.

It’s still unclear what Turkey’s interests are with the new government in Sudan and how it’s attempting to sway it one way or another. Whether it can compete with what appear to be basically common interests between the Gulf States and US and the UK at this point.

Could tensions in the Gulf lead to increased instability in the Horn?

Turkey’s influence in the Horn of Africa has also been interpreted as a method of countering powerful Gulf rivals such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Since 2017, the Gulf crisis has seen Turkey and its ally Qatar pitted against regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Given Somalia’s history as an unstable state and its strategic location along the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which links the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, it has been used as catalyst of sorts for the regional ambitions of Gulf States. The UAE has accused Somalia of siding with Qatar, while Somalia has also accused the UAE of threatening Somalia’s stability by supporting breakaway state, Somaliland – where it originally planned to build a military airport.

With the feud showing no signs of resolution any time soon, could it possibly spill over in the Horn of Africa as a proxy conflict?

It could really exacerbate regional and local issues within Somalia itself and then moving across the Horn. What Gulf states and other external states are doing is not engendering conflict, they’re exacerbating existing fault lines for conflict, and therein lies the trouble.

Maritime dispute still to be resolved

Somalia’s recent offer to Turkey also risks pulling them into direct conflict with neighboring Horn states such as Kenya, as the oil blocks in question are in the disputed maritime zone – a long-running quarrel which is yet to be resolved in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The disputed area is approximately 100,000 square kilometers and is thought to contain significant deposits of oil and gas.

While Turkey has been able to focus on development and construction in Somalia without coming to direct conflict with other states in the region, its involvement in securing offshore oil reserves may complicate matters.

Turkey getting involved in oil blocks and International Court of Justice rulings at this point may bring it into a zone that it doesn’t want to be in. So, Turkey should wait for the International Court of Justice rulings on the disputed maritime zone between Somalia and Kenya. Turkey has the capacity to offer the necessary aid both for Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya in the Horn of Africa.